Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2021 Issue

The Kenneth W. Rendell Collection on the Detection of Forged Handwriting Donated to the Grolier Club

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The Grolier Club Library is pleased to announce the receipt of a major gift, the Collection on the Detection of Forged Handwriting, which is the most important and comprehensive collection on the subject known to exist anywhere.  The Gift is from club members Kenneth W. Rendell and Shirley McNerney.

 

Rendell, a leading dealer in historical letters and documents, has exposed numerous famous forgeries such as the Hitler Diaries fraud, Mussolini’s diaries, the Mormon forgeries and murders [with forger Mark Hofmann], and Jack the Ripper’s forged diary.  This collection was formed over a 60-year period and consists of thousands of forgeries, facsimiles of handwriting, reference books, and archival files concerning major cases in which Rendell has been involved.

 

The collection is wide-ranging, encompassing historical letters and manuscripts from the early 17th century to the modern day.  Classic forgeries of Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Schiller, Washington, Lincoln, Franklin, Berlioz, Wagner, Poe and numerous others are included.  Rendell made every effort over his long and distinguished career to acquire original examples of past forgers from many sources, including the files of dealers such as Charles Hamilton, Mary Benjamin and Goodspeeds.

 

The gathering together of so many “original” forgeries – often destroyed and notoriously difficult to collect – alongside genuine examples of handwriting and a specialized reference library, gives the collection unparalleled value for study.  Thanks to the generosity of Rendell and McNerney, these materials will be made widely available to researchers, scholars, librarians, Grolier Club members, dealers, and the public for the first time.

 

The collection consists of:

 

10,000 facsimiles of the handwriting of prominent persons from the 17th to the 20th centuries

 

160 forgeries created to deceive, usually for profit

 

400 “authorized forgeries” intended to deceive people into thinking they are genuinely signed, usually by an authority figure (e.g., members of royalty, American presidents)

 

75 “mistaken identities,” in which two different people with the same name living in the same place and time are confused with each other (e.g., two people named John Adams”)

 

29 facsimiles frequently mistaken as genuine (Longfellow, Twain, etc.)

 

140 reference books on forgery detection

 

8 linear feet of archival files relating to major forgery cases in which Mr. Rendell was involved, including the Hitler diaries, the Mussolini diary, the Jack the  Ripper diary, the Mormon forgeries, the John F. Kennedy/Cusak fraud, and the Elvis Presley musical manuscript forgeries

 

Research files and photographs compiled by Rendell for his book, Forging History:  The Detection of Forged Historical Manuscripts (University of Oklahoma Press, 1994)

 

The gift of the Collection on the Detection of Forged Handwriting also includes a monetary gift to enhance accessibility to the collection through professional cataloguing.  Through their donation to the Grolier Club, Rendell and McNerney have ensured the preservation of this material is a publicly accessible institution, where it can be studied by anyone with an interest in the history, analysis, and detection of forged documents.  We are grateful to them for their foresight and extraordinary generosity.

 

For more information, contact

 

Meghan R. Constantinou, M.A., M.L.I.S. Librarian

The Grolier Club

47 East 60th Street

 

New York, N.Y. 10022

Phone:  212-838-6690 ext. 5

Fax:  212-838-2445

e-mail:  mconstantinou@grolierclub.org website:  www.grolierclub.org


Posted On: 2021-04-01 20:53
User Name: mairin

Forgery! One of the craftiest of white-collar crimes.
Excellent information here, many thanks for assembling the piece and for supplying a useful subject list & gift description.
And pleased to see Meghan Constantinou's contact information (Grolier Club); she's
a reliable resource & conduit (I say this from first-hand experience).
Especially pleased that the Rendell McNerney Collection donation to Grolier includes the late NYC handwriting expert, Charles Hamilton ("The Hitler Diaries: Fakes That Fooled The World"). He interviewed me in the '80s / early '90s when he needed an assistant; I accepted a higher-paying position elsewhere (grants writer, Brooklyn Arts Council / Brooklyn Museum). Perhaps a plum opportunity lost -- it would have been a real education (of sorts).
Shall order a copy of Rendell's book on the master craft of forgery. Sure to be a fine read!
- Maureen E. Mulvihill, Collector / RBH Guest Writer.
___


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